Between the Lines

Cold War Comfort

(This column was originally published in the January 2017 edition of Chronicles.)

To say I was a difficult child is something of an understatement: I was a wild child.  In retrospect, I can only feel sorry for my poor parents, who had no idea what to do with me.  I was simply unmanageable.  Unwilling to sit still in class, or to obey the simplest instructions, I did as I pleased without regard for decorum.  I distinctly remember dashing out of my first-grade classroom with the teacher close behind me, leaving that poor woman in the dust while I ran rings around her out on the playground, where I much preferred to be.  As this was a daily occurrence, the adults eventually decided that something had to be done with me, and that is how I made the acquaintance of Dr. Robert Soblen, prominent New York psychiatrist and Soviet spy.

Dr. Soblen’s office, I recall, had a peculiar medicinal smell, and his face was pockmarked.  His thick eyebrows, and thick lips, along with his foreign accent—he had been born in Lithuania—combined with his distant manner to give the impression of alienness, of a creature beyond my ken and experience.  He administered many tests—draw a man, draw a woman, multiple choice—and once we played chess after I showed some interest in his chess set.  But of course I never had a chance when it came to this game: I was a mere child, and the Doctor had already decided my fate.

I know this because Dr. Soblen’s notes on...

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